Are Kobe Bryant and L.A. Lakers getting screwed by referees?
They're getting a taste of their own medicine -and not liking it. Not one bit.
For years, the Los Angeles Lakers -as the NBA's undisputed glamour franchise and most lucrative market- seemed to receive preferential treatment from referees, especially during key moments of games.
The Oliver Stone conspiracy theorists had a field day, alleging Commissioner David Stern and head office encouraged the zebras to favour the purple-and-gold. This group never had hard evidence to support their theories, but maintained that Stern wanted the Lakers to contend because it was good for business.
They do, however, claim to have circumstantial evidence. Both the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings were on the other end of some, well, interesting calls in past playoff series against the Shaquille O'Neal led Lakers.
For two regular season games last week, the tables were turned. And those key whistles down the stretch, the ones the Lakers are accustomed to getting and take for granted, went the other way.
In the final stages of Thursday's marquee match against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ron Artest was called for a questionable foul on Anderson Varejao ( the two were battling for a rebound off a LeBron James missed free throw). Varejao nailed both free throws and stretched the Cavaliers' lead to an insurmountable five points.
Sunday's game against the Toronto Raptors was also controversial. With seconds remaining and the Lakers up a point, Toronto's Hedo Turkoglu drove left and drew a foul on Pau Gasol, even though he appeared off balance. Turkoglu, a clutch player, sank both free throws, which put Toronto ahead to stay.
(Legitimate foul or phantom whistle?)
Of course, this was only the regular season and the Lakers will get their share of calls during the playoffs. Too much is at stake for the league. At least, that's what the conspiracy theorists will say.